Nora walked home that morning as she had many others, but for the first time she wished for herself a better verb. How she longed to claw her way home, to stalk, to march, even to limp; to locomote in such a way as to draw off her early morning agony. To exorcise through exercise, Nora thought, and then, goddamn, because that’s something he would say.
The July heat was already rising from the street, and the parched canyon of Kedzie Avenue unfurled before Nora’s eyes. Trust that they are usually less red. Her skull contained blasted shards and horrible twisted metallic bits. Remnants, she suspected, of instruments once elegant or at least functional. A civilization reduced to ruin overnight. These things happen. Historically speaking.
Nora stopped outside a convenience store where she could be bathed in air conditioning exhaust and burned-coffee smell. She extracted the lighter and crushed pack from her jeans pocket. The last cigarette always seemed to portend a next thing, perhaps an execution by firing squad. Nora would not have refused the blindfold. She squinted at the pack through the blazing sunshine. Something else rattled within and she tipped it into her palm.
The pill was broad and pale green and shield-shaped. My aegis, he had called it. When had he said that? Nora had been examining the debris upon his dresser with interest keen beyond any artificial heightening. Candy-colored guitar picks, a winking rubber owl, a mateless earring (not Nora’s), a volume of plays much fanned by moisture. This was all information. All of it. And what else had he said? It’s not that I think you can’t understand, but explaining it wouldn’t help anything, wouldn’t change anything. Or at least wouldn’t change me. He had leaned back into the pillows with a familiar smile then as Nora laughed opaquely, and this was the moment when she had slipped the pill from the dresser into her pocket. The last thing she remembered thinking was that the golden hairs on his forearms and his eyebrows were exactly the same. There are stranger things to think in that moment, but this was the information presented.
More serene if no less cataclysmically hung over, she closed her hand around the pill and walked on. Like a tiny oracle it foretold events soon to transpire. His apartment lay further behind her with every step. The morning would assert itself, slice through the heavy curtains and inflame the dust motes drifting above his funereal antique furniture. He would rise and look for the pill and not find it. The search would be frantic and futile and the thing that he would not explain would have its chance to change him.
It made no difference to Nora. It was just information. Her cigarette smoke found the new cavity in her eyetooth and made a little agony of neon. And this was information, too.